Matt LaFleur wishes he had communicated better with Aaron Rodgers before fourth-down decision
Matt LaFleur ended his second season as an NFL head coach being second-guessed for a fateful fourth-down decision in the waning moments of the Green Bay Packers’ 31-26 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.
Sitting at fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard-line, LaFleur opted for a 26-yard field goal to cut an eight-point deficit to five following three straight incomplete passes from Aaron Rodgers. With three timeouts remaining, LaFleur hoped his defense would get a stop, and a touchdown could win the game.
In the end, Tom Brady and the Bucs converted two first downs, and Rodgers never saw the ball again.
LaFleur doesn’t necessarily regret the decision to kick the field goal. The coach told Peter King for his Football Morning in America column that he wishes he could have relayed to Rodgers that it might not have been four-down territory.
“One thing you definitely learn: I know my communication with [Rodgers] should have been better in that situation,” LaFleur told King. “Maybe on that third down we do something a little bit different. His mindset was, We got four downs here. It comes down to communication, and that’s something I gotta learn from and be better with him.”
It’s possible had LaFleur told Rodgers that he might kick the field goal if the Packers didn’t gain at least a few yards on third down, the QB might have taken off and run on third down instead of forcing a low-percentage throw. Rodgers might not have scored but likely would have gotten close enough to set up a fourth-and-short situation.
Down eight points at the time, the Packers would have needed a TD on fourth-and-8 plus the two-point conversion to tie the game. Then the defense would have needed to stop Brady. Then Green Bay would have needed to win in overtime.
It wasn’t a good place to be in. Losing will always lead to second-guessing.
The bigger issue for the Packers was the end-of-half scenario that led to a Bucs TD bomb that put Green Bay down 11 points at the break and set them up to trail by eight points late. The cascading effect that play had was felt throughout the final two quarters.
LaFleur’s teams have gone 26-6 in the regular season in his two years, but have come up short in the postseason.
“If you asked me, probably, before I got the job, ‘Hey, you’re gonna go 13-3 your first two years as coach,’ you’d sign up for that,” LaFleur said. “But only one team’s happy at the end of the year.”
That team hasn’t been the Packers since February 2011.
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